Kittens & Keets

Some days I just can’t…(Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

The kids and I have been on the struggle bus lately. No one seems to be able to focus. I struggle to focus on writing, and they struggle to focus on schoolwork. When we start arguing during lessons, I know it’s time to take a break from homeschooling and recharge. We typically do this by stopping table time (read: books lessons) and going on outings. We’d hit up the Cincinnati Zoo, the Cincinnati Museum Center, and ALL the playgrounds.

For obvious reasons, we can’t do that right now. The weather has been challenging, too. It’s been very rainy and unseasonably cool here. In short, we’re all feeling like you probably are: a bit out of sorts.

A solution presents itself

Last week while numbing out on my phone, I was trolling the Petfinder app and stumbled upon the Ohio Alleycat Resource & Spay/Neuter Clinic. Their website said they needed fosters for various cats and kittens. My mind started working…

I signed us up to foster cats and/or kittens. We’ve been approved and are awaiting our first fosters right now. You can imagine how often the kids ask me if OAR has texted me yet. I was feeling pretty good. We’d be helping animals, while giving ourselves new purpose and fuzzy goodness. Even my husband, though not an animal person, was okay with the plan.

And yet more weirdness for 2020

Then one night while watching Frozen II (this is relevant because Frozen II is amazing and Anna is my hero), my daughter noticed the parakeets doing something a little strange. Yep, they were mating. Dang it.

A bit of background. When we first got our parakeets, we had two males. George sadly passed away a week or two after we brought him home. We went back and got Tonks, who I thought was a boy. Nope. Turns out Tonks is female. So Fred and Tonks were together in the cage, but I wasn’t worried. They weren’t very friendly with each other (parakeet females won’t mate if they don’t approve of the male) and I was doing all the things to decrease the odds of mating (changing their cage setup regularly, not providing nesting boxes, covering their cage earlier at night).

Jeff Goldblum Life Finds A Way GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Well it turns out that Ian Malcolm was right. Life finds a way. So now I’m scrambling to learn all I can about brooding parakeets and raising ‘keet chicks. It seems doable…I think. If all goes well, we’ll have some very cute and tame young parakeets in about two months. Gulp.

I’m just hoping for a happy ending.

The Blinking Cursor

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It goes without saying that we are living through a crazy time. I am lucky in that I can work from anywhere. I homeschool my kids, so that hasn’t changed. I always work from home when I act as the bookkeeper for my husband’s small business. I usually go to my favorite writing place, White Oak Coffee House, to work on my writing. I can’t go there right now, but surely I can write from home.

Yeah….my creative spark seems to have dimmed. My anxiety has spiked. My mind is so full of the harrowing facts of the present and the ‘what if’s’ of the future that there seems to be little room for sweeping romance.

Does this block sound familiar to anyone else? You’re definitely not alone.

Thursday is my writing day, and for the past three or four Thursdays I’ve just sat there, staring at a blinking cursor. So I decided to focus on other pursuits for a while. I finished a sweater for my daughter that I began back in December. I knit myself a cowl. And I’ve even started teaching myself how to sew, something I’ve always wanted to do.

Today I took some time and wrote out a scene that I had dreamed up (literally). I only wrote about three pages, but it still felt great.

As Mr Darcy would say, I hope you and your families are all in good health. Take very good care.

Chicken Coop Confidence

Tada! The Basic Coop from The Garden Coop

Coop Completion!

Remember back in October when I shared my plan to create The Basic Coop from The Garden Coop? Well four months later, the thing is finished! It languished in our garage for many months while I procrastinated–intimidated as I was by the size of the project.

Then one Sunday a few weeks ago, it was 60 degrees outside and I decided it was go time. Kev had already helped me measure and cut all the plywood, which was the hardest part in my opinion. And I had already treated each piece of wood with a nice sealer to keep the moisture out. It was time to assemble.

I spent the whole day working, and the kids pitched in too. They mostly helped with the painting. I love my little Irish coop, and have already bought plans for a run. It was a huge confidence builder, creating this thing from scratch. It helped me channel my inner Captain America.

And like this scene when Cap tosses Black Widow up into the air with his shield, I used the momentum I got from this completed project to complete another: Fidelity.

That’s right folks, Fidelity has been edited, beta read, re-edited, and submitted.

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It will be three long months before I hear back from the particular publisher that I submitted it to, but I’m still so excited about it!

You never know. You hope for the best, then make do with what you get. - Nick Fury (Avengers: Age of Ultron Quotes)

Keep your fingers crossed!

YouTube Gems

Prepare to find a new rabbit hole.

I have a secret love: YouTube fan vids. A good fan video can transport you. I have so many favorite videos in various lists now, I realize I needed to share them! I find these videos incredibly inspirational as far as writing goes. They get my creative juices flowing.

So this here post is the first in a series. YouTube Gems that must be shared. First up, Sherlock. If you have not seen Sherlock and want to, please do not view these! Many spoilers are contained within 🙂

This firsts video is by Nyah86Production and is called “The Woman That Counted.” The music is by The Cinematic Orchestra. Enjoy!

The next video is by nolaespoir and is called “A Magic Trick.” Oh my goodness, this one is so very good! The music is “Song for Bob” by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. All. The. Feels.

Okay, now that we’re all feeling pangs in our heart, let’s go write that initial breakup scene. Stay tuned for more YouTube Gems. Next up: Doctor Who.

Music to Write By – The Foll Stones

I’ve been working on The Foll Stones for over 10 years. I started it before my daughter was born, took a long hiatus until after the birth of my son, and finished the first draft during my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. So you can imagine that the playlist for this work is long and varied!

Before I share my favorite pieces from the playlist, here is a bit about The Foll Stones:

When 19-year-old Cleona Willow and her childhood friend Brian are magically pulled from their sleepy Vermont town and thrust into the ancient land of Terratalam, they must join the quest to unite the mythical Foll Stones, or risk being trapped in the strange world forever.

The Music

One of the first scenes that I envisioned is quite dramatic. There’s a swamp, a challenge, and a life-threatening drop. The music that plays is Injection by Hans Zimmer. It’s from Mission Impossible II, of all things. It doesn’t really get good until minute 1:30 (sorry Hans).

The next of many favorites is “Ron Leaves” by Alexandre Desplat. It’s from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, although I’ve forgotten which one. It’s so beautiful and sad and simply perfect for The Foll Stones. There’s a fair amount of bittersweet moments in this novel, and this music is perfection.

Okay more bittersweet coming at you. This piece is called “Remembering Jenny” by Christophe Beck. It’s from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer soundtrack. It’s sooo good. It’s short, but man the feels it evokes. Incidentally, Christophe Beck composed the score for Frozen. Not the songs or anything, but the beautiful music that plays when the parents are lost at sea? Christophe. Also, when the animated Christophe is running across the ice? Christophe. Okay, enough. On to the beauty.

There are many more songs on my list for this novel. As it comes closer to completion, I’ll be sharing more. I hope you enjoyed this peek inside my musical inspiration!

50,000 Words

Another pseudo-version of me – typing.

It’s November, which means it’s NaNoWriMo! What is NaNoWriMo you ask? It’s National Novel Writing Month, when a bunch of writers the world over try to write 50,000 words in one month. Check out their official website here.

I am not doing NaNoWriMo this year, because, life. But I love keeping up with other writers’ progress all the same. It gives me a creative boost just to think about all my fellow writers out there, working so hard this month to realize their dreams.

It’s also got me thinking about 50,000 words. I am not sure I have ever reached that goal. A Chance Encounter in Pemberley Woods is a novella, around 35,000 words. The current draft of Fidelity is 49,500 words. The Foll Stones is stalling out at 49,000. It seems I have trouble hitting that magical number – 50,000.

Why 50,000? Because that’s the average novel length. And to be honest, that’s pretty short. I’ll give you an example. One of my all time favorite books, A Wrinkle in Time, is about 50,000 words. I would not consider that to be a long book.

It’s really got me thinking. Maybe my style is just succinct. In fact, this is not a new thing for me. In college, my papers would rarely reach the requested number of pages. I would fall short by half a page or so, almost every time! I remember worrying about it, and speaking to my professor and advisor, Dr. Germaine Murray. She reassured me that I said what I needed to say and supported my ideas with fewer words, which was perfectly fine.

Now, a novel is not the same as a research paper. However, I’ve started to think about the possibility that I may not write long novels. Maybe shorter work is just my style. As a new writer, it’s hard to know when something is my style, and when something is happening because I’m a novice. For now, I’ll keep working on my 45,000 average. Perhaps I’ll hit that magic number this month, during the amazing creative juju of NaNoWriMo.

A Chance Encounter in Pemberley Woods – Now on Kindle Unlimited!

My book is now available through Kindle Unlimited 🙂

I am super excited to let you all know that A Chance Encounter in Pemberley Woods is now available through Kindle Unlimited. If you don’t know, Kindle Unlimited is a program through Amazon in which you pay one monthly price and can read as many KU books as you want.

I’m excited for this next stage for my little book!

Beta Reading Is Amazing

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I recently sent two different works to complete strangers for a beta read. For those of you who don’t know, beta readers are fellow writers who volunteer to read through your work. They offer constructive criticism and feedback. I had never participated in either end of the process, so I decided it was high time.

The result has been truly worthwhile. I have received incredibly helpful notes and ideas. Throughout the many years that I have been writing, I have followed the same process. I write and revise, write and revise. It is always me looking at each successive draft. Not only did it keep me from moving forward with my writing, but it kept me from seeing new possibilities within my own work.

I also decided to take on some work as a beta reader. It has been more fun and informative than I thought it would be! I find it really interesting to read other author’s works in progress. To see what people are working on, before an editor gets to it, has been great. And the whole process has given me a stronger sense of community.

And you know what? The writing community is amazing, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.

Music to Write By – Fidelity

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For my third installment of Music to Write by I’ll be highlighting a few of the pieces I have listened to while writing my latest work. I’m calling it Fidelity right now.

Let’s set the scene

In order to appreciate the music, here is the blurb for the novel. You know, the back of the book copy that draws you in and makes you buy the book (well, hopefully).

When computer programmer Sora Leroux intercepts secret plans to destroy the upcoming peace accords with an alien nation, she doesn’t know whom to trust. One thing she does know, however, is that she’s in danger. She decides to run, but the Special Ops captain sent to track her down has other plans.

Captain Graham Smith has been sent bring in Sora Leroux, a woman implicated in a terrorist threat. When new information reveals a greater conspiracy, Graham must decide who is telling the truth as he races to save London from a hidden threat.

Piece the first

Okay, I must start with the piece of music that started it all. Biplane by Andrew Lockington. This piece is from the movie The Space Between Us (worth a look, if you’ve never seen it). A pivotal scene of the novel came to me while I was listening to this track. It gets amazing at minute 1:50. Wait for it.

It’s sweeping, it’s adventurous, it’s romantic. I love it. I was sitting in my son’s room, helping him fall asleep by just being there, listening to this piece. And I pictured Sora and Graham. So thanks Andrew Lockington.

Piece the second

The second piece that was super inspiring is “I Feel You” by Alan Silvestri from Avengers: Endgame. If you’ve seen this movie, you might remember this part. I love it. But I love the music even more.

Is that not just wonderful? Okay, I’ll admit it — I love dramatic, sweeping pieces. Throw in some strings and I’m done for. I Feel You is the score behind a very important scene in the novel. There may be explosions. There may be declarations. I love it.

There you have it. My two major pieces for Fidelity. The ones I have listened to on a loop. Other works on my playlist include the soundtrack to The Martian by Harry Gregson-Williams, Man of Steel by Hans Zimmer, and The Host by Antonio Pinto.

If you’re interested in the first two posts of this series, check them out here and here.

Writing Research is the Best Research

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I often have to do a bit of research for my writing. This latest novel, which is set here on Earth in the near-ish future, required some digging into some interesting topics. I’m currently researching types of explosives (and wondering if I’m getting myself placed on a watch list somewhere). Before that, it was the city of Plymouth in England. This same story called for information about the Banana River in Florida, and the Darling River in Australia.

At one point, my heroin needs a place to stay in London and she chooses to stay at a bed and breakfast. I knew just what I was looking for (and indeed, what I had already written), and I wanted to find something like it in London. I guess I thought it would be cool if something that it were realistic and available. Well guess what? I found it!

I give you, The Hurlingham Bed & Breakfast:

I mean…wow.
Perfection

It is simply lovely looking. Now, most of you know that I have never been to London, or England, or anywhere except a small town in Canada. No matter! I have Google maps and street view. Using my super tech skills (haha), I did some sleuthing and realized that this lovely, perfect, idyllic gem of a place is just too far from the hospital in downtown London that I chose for some important scenes.

Not to be stumped, I decided to do a bit more research and find something closer. And ta-da! I found a hip, affordable hostel that I would absolutely stay in if I didn’t have to share a room with strangers (sorry, it’s a thing).

I give you, The Horse & Stables:

It just says ‘London’ to me.

This place is an awesome looking hostel right in the heart of London. It’s situated across the Thames from the Palace of Westminster. Westminster is also a key location in my novel, so that was a plus. The Horse & Stables looks really cool. Sort of hip. I mean, check out these other photos:

Totally slick, but not the right fit for my heroin. What’s an author to do? Smash ’em together and bend the truth! So while my bed and breakfast isn’t exactly either of these, it was inspired by both of them. Add these two spots to my (very) long list of places to visit once I get to England!